What causes forearm pain

Arm and elbow discomfort without the use of force

Making beds, doing the shopping, playing tennis - arms and elbows are constantly in use in everyday life and leisure. The elbow joint connects the upper and the two bones of the forearm: the humerus and the two forearm bones, ulna and radius. These are surrounded by an apparatus made of muscles and tendons that pull from the shoulder to the wrist and fingers. Illnesses and injuries to the elbow and forearm therefore often also affect the mobility of the hand.

If pain in the arms and elbows occurs without a fall or other injury, overload is often the trigger. This is then noticeable, for example, at the tendon attachments, for example in the form of a "tennis elbow".

The three major nerves that supply the arm are also susceptible to symptoms: the ulnar nerve, the radial nerve (radial nerve) and the median nerve (nervus medianus). These run through several narrow points on their way from the upper arm to the fingers. If the nerves there come under pressure due to an inflammatory swelling, there is a risk of pain and sensory disturbances up to paralysis. If the symptoms also extend to the neck or shoulder area, a disease of the cervical spine should be considered.

Arthroses in the elbow are much less common than in other joints. Nevertheless: in the case of advanced age, known overstrain or misalignment or if past injuries are known, X-rays help to rule them out.

Symptoms, their causes, measures and self-help

  • Alternating arm pain with a tense neck; Aggravation of pain when turning the head; possibly recurring headache; possibly boring pain between the shoulder blades; rarely numbness and / or paralysis of the shoulder, arm or hand

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  • Drawing arm pain one day after unusual muscle stress; for example in sports

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  • Pain in the inside of the elbow, e.g. B. when shaking hands or lifting an object; Radiation in the extensor side of the forearm

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  • Pain on the outside of the elbow, e.g. B. when shaking hands or lifting an object; Radiation into the flexor side of the forearm

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  • Painful swelling and redness over the tip of the elbow; Increased pain when bending and propping up the arm

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  • Increasing, painful restriction of movement in the elbow joint; mostly swelling; possibly sudden blockages in movements

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  • Rapidly increasing, painful redness and / or swelling of the arm with a fever

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  • Tension and swelling in your forearm or upper arm after breast surgery or radiation

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  • Alternating pain, tingling, and / or numbness on the inside of the arm and the little finger side of the hand; triggered z. B. turning the head, overhead activities, sleeping with arms up, lifting loads; possibly swelling of the arm

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  • Persistent or attack-like arm pain after a stroke with hemiplegia

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Alternating arm pain with a tense neck; Aggravation of pain when turning the head; possibly recurring headache; possibly boring pain between the shoulder blades; rarely numbness and / or paralysis of the shoulder, arm or hand

Root cause:

Shoulder-arm syndrome, e.g. B. caused by

Activities:

  • On the same day to the orthopedic surgeon or family doctor in case of numbness or paralysis
  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor if the complaints persist

Self help:

  • Heat applications on the neck, e.g. B. hot role
  • Improvement of workplace ergonomics
  • Exercise breaks at work
  • Relaxation procedure
  • Compensatory sport - motto: Everything that is fun

Drawing arm pain one day after unusual muscle stress; for example in sports

Root cause:

Self help:

  • Sauna, baths with added rosemary or spruce needles
  • Loosening and stretching exercises

Pain in the inside of the elbow, e.g. B. when shaking hands or lifting an object; Radiation in the extensor side of the forearm

Root cause:

Measure:

  • At the opportunity to see an orthopedic surgeon or family doctor, if the symptoms do not improve within a few weeks due to rest

Self help:

  • Protection
  • Heat applications, e.g. B. heating pad, infrared heater or
  • Refrigeration applications, e.g. B. cold envelopes, cool packs

Pain on the outside of the elbow, e.g. B. when shaking hands or lifting an object; Radiation into the flexor side of the forearm

Root cause:

  • Golfer's elbow (throwing arm, epicondylitis humeri ulnaris)

Measure:

  • At the opportunity to see an orthopedic surgeon or family doctor, if the symptoms do not improve within a few weeks through rest

Self help:

  • Protection
  • Heat applications, e.g. B. heating pad, infrared heater or
  • Refrigeration applications, e.g. B. cold envelopes, cool packs

Painful swelling and redness over the tip of the elbow; Increased pain when bending and propping up the arm

Root cause:

  • Chronic inflammation of the elbow bursa (bursitis olecrani or student elbow)

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or orthopedic surgeon if the symptoms do not improve despite taking care of yourself

Self help:

  • Avoid propping up
  • Heat applications, e.g. B. heating pad, infrared heater or
  • Refrigeration applications, e.g. B. cold envelopes, cool packs

Increasing, painful restriction of movement in the elbow joint; mostly swelling; possibly sudden blockages in movements

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor or orthopedic surgeon

Self help:

  • In the case of acute pain, cold applications, e.g. B. cold envelopes, cool packs, ice packs
  • In the case of chronic pain, heat is applied

Rapidly increasing, painful redness and / or swelling of the arm with a fever

Root cause:

Bacterial inflammation in the skin and soft tissues, e.g. B. as

Measure:

  • Immediately to the family doctor or to the nearest clinic

Tension and swelling in your forearm or upper arm after breast surgery or radiation

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the gynecologist or family doctor

Self help:

  • Avoid overheating (e.g. sunbathing, sauna)
  • Avoid constricting clothing
  • Prevent minor injuries

Alternating pain, tingling, and / or numbness on the inside of the arm and the little finger side of the hand; triggered z. B. turning the head, overhead activities, sleeping with arms up, lifting loads; possibly swelling of the arm

Root cause:

Activities:

  • In the next few days to the orthopedic surgeon or family doctor if you feel heaviness or weakness in your arm
  • Otherwise, see a doctor in the next few weeks if the symptoms recur

Persistent or attack-like arm pain after a stroke with hemiplegia

Root cause:

  • Half-sided pain (hemialgia) as a result of a stroke, when areas of the brain responsible for pain perception have been damaged

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or neurologist

Your pharmacy recommends

As with all musculoskeletal complaints, if the pain does not improve after a short time or if it occurs more frequently, a doctor should be consulted. If you experience paralysis or numbness in your arms and hands, you should not lose any time and seek medical advice immediately. However, some tips can also be easily implemented from home:

Initial treatment after the P.E.C. H. scheme.

In case of overloads, e.g. B. After sports with one-sided stress such as tennis, it often helps to orientate yourself on the PECH scheme. Each capital letter stands for a measure to be carried out:

P for break: The training or movement should be interrupted and the arm and elbow should be immobilized. The following also applies to the days after: the triggering stress is taboo at least until the symptoms have disappeared in everyday life.

E for ice: cooling for at least 15 minutes relieves pain, reduces swelling and reduces inflammatory reactions that can be the cause of the discomfort. Cold compresses with ice packs, ice cubes or towels soaked in cold water are suitable. To avoid frostbite, a cloth should always be placed between the body and the coolant.

Tip: Especially with chronic complaints, warmth often helps better than cold. When in doubt, it makes sense to simply try out what is good.

C for Compression: An elastic pressure bandage, ideally over the cold compress, reduces swelling and relieves the elbow while running.

H for elevation: helps swelling to subside.

Medical therapy.

In the case of pain in the arm and elbow, drug therapy has two goals: on the one hand, to alleviate the pain, on the other hand, to contain the usual inflammatory or tissue reactions. Non-prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, paracetamol and ibuprofen are suitable. These are available in tablet form, but some are also available as ointments.

Caution: Painkillers only mask underlying symptoms and should not tempt you to put weight on the arm again too soon.

Herbal preparations.

These are available in gel and ointment form, but also as a tincture for rubs and poultices, e.g. B. with comfrey root extract (e.g. Kytta® Salbe f), arnica (e.g. Kneipp Arnika Salbe® S) or camphor (e.g. Camphoderm® N). They have a pain-relieving, decongestant and anti-inflammatory effect and come v. a. used for moderate pain. Many athletes swear by a preparation that is sold as a horse ointment and contains plant extracts such as arnica, rosemary, camphor and menthol.

Tapes and bandages.

Orthopedic tapes and bandages stabilize and relieve the elbow. Garter bandages are particularly easy to use because they can be easily pulled over the arm. It's even easier with Velcro bandages that can be flexibly adapted to the joint. The following applies to all bandages: They should be so tight that they provide support, but not interrupt the blood supply. Tapes are attached to the skin in such a way that dangerous movements are prevented. The best thing to do is get advice when buying and explain exactly what needs to be considered when wearing and attaching.

Prevent incorrect loads.

Movement is healthy - especially untrained people should be careful not to overwhelm themselves and only slowly increase unfamiliar movement patterns. Anyone who notices that one-sided stress, such as when playing tennis or golf, repeatedly leads to complaints, should reduce their training schedule or even switch to another sport.

The workplace is also a frequent source of inappropriate strain: Sitting at a desk for hours is often the cause of neck and back complaints that radiate into the arm. Change your sitting position as often as possible and make sure that the back and thighs form a 120 degree angle, the upper and lower arm at least a right angle. Instead of picking up the phone, visit your colleagues directly from time to time: Standing up and walking around relaxes your muscles.

Authors

Dr. med. Arne Schäffler; Dr. med. Brigitte Strasser-Vogel; in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Editing: Sara Steer | last changed on at 17:35


Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.